Nicci French is the pen name of writing partners Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, and author(s) of one of my favourite thrillers Land of the Living – which you should absolutely go and read if you haven’t already.
Blue Monday is the first in a series of books about a psychotherapist Frieda Klein who becomes involved with an investigation into a missing child.
The novel starts in 1987, London, when 5 year old Joanna Vine goes missing on the way home from school. The case is never solved. 22 years later another child goes missing in eerily similar circumstances.
Frieda Klein takes on a new patient when her mentor and friend Reuben McGill, who refuses to accept that he is having a breakdown of some kind, acts unprofessionally and the patient complains. Alan Dekker is a middle aged man who is experiencing disturbing fantasies, and dreams in which he wants to take a small redheaded boy. Alan and his wife have been trying to have a baby, but have been unable to conceive a child. He is very distressed by the thoughts he keeps having; he suffers from crippling anxiety which is affecting his work and marriage. Shortly afterwards, Matthew Faraday goes missing when his mother is late picking him up from primary school.
Frieda feels no choice but to tell the lead investigator DCI Malcolm Karlsson; he is sceptical at first, but when it comes to light that the patient experienced the same feelings 22 years ago he starts to believe that maybe Matthew Faraday and Joanna Vines disappearances may be linked, and he may be able to find out what really happened to her all those years ago.
As a character Freida is a very strong, almost repressed person; she likes order and quite. She is not unsympathetic and constantly finds herself drawn into the chaos of her niece Chloe’s life, but it is very obvious she just wants to be left alone.
This is quite different to any other Nicci French novels I have read in the past, the author is very careful not to reveal much information about the main characters; you get small glimpses of Frieda’s personal life, and there is some mystery around her relationship with her family but it is all just little teasers. This is obviously the beginning of a series. Also unusually for a Nicci French novel there are a number of secondary characters introduced; Reuben McGill the flawed charismatic father figure and Josef a Ukrainian builder who literally falls through her ceiling and into her life.
I quite enjoyed this, and look forward to reading more books in the series, although I did start to get bored with the “twists” towards the end. They were glaringly obvious to me, but that might be because I have devoured about 6 thrillers in the last couple of weeks. I thought that the plot became unnecessarily complicated in an attempt to be clever and did speed read through the final quarter.
Let me know if you’ve read this series in the comments.